Despite three straight losses by a combined margin of 98-54, California coach Tom Holmoe has managed to maintain at least the appearance of optimism. Some would say the Bears’ first-year coach is afflicted by a severe case of denial.
After his team’s most recent loss, a 30-3 defeat to No. 10 Washington, Holmoe said he was encouraged by the Bears’ improvement. “It was good,” Holmoe said. “We came out, we played hard, the preparation couldn’t have been better. We were ready to play.”
Faced with upcoming games against No. 13 Washington State and No. 17 UCLA, Holmoe was unable to contain his giddiness. “It’s kind of exciting, fun in a way, to know it doesn’t get easier,” he said.
Holmoe’s condition appears to be contagious. In fact, Cal quarterback Justin Vedder says he can’t wait for Saturday’s game in Pullman, where the Bears (2-3) have not won since 1979.
“I’m ready to play Washington State now,” Vedder said. “I love going to away games. I hope they throw beer on me.”
If Vedder expects WSU fans to waste perfectly good beer, he is sadly mistaken, although there should be plenty of boos to go around.
Mr. Smith goes to the bench
Keith Smith, the Arizona quarterback who terrorized opponents as a freshman last season, suddenly can’t get on the field.
That’s because the Wildcats are winning with freshman Ortege Jenkins, who has been sensational since Smith went down with a shoulder injury.
Smith, who had been struggling, is again healthy. But his playing future is unclear. To Smith’s credit, he has kept his composure.
“I know I wasn’t performing well the first couple of games,” said Smith, who might get some playing time at receiver. “Maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself, but like I’ve said all along, O.J. has been unbelievable. You have to reward him for it.”
Jenkins has thrown seven touchdown passes during the last two weeks, leading Arizona past San Diego State and Stanford. He figures to be tested more severely in the next two weeks, when the Wildcats face UW and WSU.
Around the conference
Washington quarterback Brock Huard has struggled since the Huskies’ loss to Nebraska, prompting some to wonder if his twisted ankle and bruised psyche have recovered. Against Cal last week, Huard seemed to be throwing more off his back foot, hardly resembling the poised passer he had been. Of course, it’s easy to forget that Huard is merely a sophomore. … John Robinson said he won’t return as USC coach unless the Trojans turn around their season. Athletic director Mike Garrett couldn’t have said it better himself… . Before USC’s total collapse against Arizona State, many had blamed the team’s mediocrity on its soft-serve running game. But the Trojans could also use an experienced quarterback. Too often, sophomore John Fox fails to make even basic audibles. In his defense, USC has a new offensive coordinator. Also, it’s unclear how much play-calling freedom Fox is allowed.
After Oregon’s 39-31 loss to UCLA, the Oregon coaching staff correctly took the blame for a disastrous substitution. The Ducks switched quarterbacks in the fourth quarter while facing third-and-8 from their own 22. Jason Maas immediately threw an interception. “What happened is 100 percent on me,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said…. Please pass the crow. R. Jay Soward looks hungry. Soward, the USC receiver who had called ASU a team of the past last week, caught two passes for 19 yards as the Trojans were humiliated 35-7… . This from Oregon State defensive end Inoke Breckterfield: “We played two of the best teams in the conference (Stanford, Arizona State) and gave them a run for their money. The Beavers ain’t no slouch. We’re comin’ to play and we’re gonna win some games in the Pac-10.” Just wondering: Would that be a cart in front of that horse? … Oregon’s 434 offensive plays have been divided equally between passing and running… . UCLA freshman Freddie Mitchell dazzled coaches during a recent workout and could return kicks and punts against Oregon State. Mitchell, who turned down scholarship offers from Florida and Florida State, was able to enroll last week after passing his ACT… . ESPN’s Beano Cook recently picked UCLA to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, meaning you can pretty much rule out the Bruins. Cook, you’ll recall, once said Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus would win multiple Heisman Trophies.
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